Tearing your biceps tendon is a very painful injury that results from overexertion of the muscle due to lifting too much weight or falling on an outstretched arm. The pain is often sudden and sharp, preceded by a tearing or pulling sensation at the front of the elbow.
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Before doing biceps tendon tear exercises, consult with a doctor. In many cases, surgery is required to fix this injury and exercise follows a strict format. For best results, perform rehabilitation exercises under the supervision of a physical therapist.
Read more: Workouts for Different Parts of the Biceps
Biceps Tendon Tear Exercises
Most often biceps tears at the elbow damage the entire tendon, requiring surgery, as explained by the Mayo Clinic. You will likely wear a hinged elbow brace for up to eight weeks as the tendon heals.
Around week 2, your therapist will begin range of motion exercises, according to University of Wisconsin Sports Medicine.
- Start by simply holding your arms out in front of you with your palms facing upward.
- Bend at the elbows, simulating an arm curl exercise, bending as far as you can before straightening as far as your therapist instructs. This motion is limited for up to eight weeks.
- Gradually progress to doing this exercise with items such as a hammer or a soup can for added resistance and aim for three sets of 10 repetitions each time.
Start Isometric Training
While the biceps tendon is still sore in the early months after surgery, you will typically begin gentle isometric strengthening around 12 weeks after surgery, according to an article published in April 2019 by the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy.
This will increase blood and oxygen to flow to the injured area, which will help heal the injured area without placing additional strain on the tendon.
- Hold your arm out like you would flex in the mirror, with your elbow bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Place your opposite hand on top of your forearm.
- Gently press down with your hand. Tighten your biceps muscle to meet this resistance while keeping it bent at 90 degrees.
- Hold for three seconds; then relax.
- Repeat 10 times, working up to three sets in a row.
Add Some Light Weight Training
According to the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy article, at 16 weeks after surgery the tendon is likely strong enough to be able to withstand light weight training.
Start with low weight at low repetitions, being careful not to overexert the muscle and cause another tear, putting you back at square one.
Exercises such as bench press, shoulder press and arm curls should be done to try to slowly rebuild the muscle mass in your upper arm, as it will have deteriorated over time due to the lack of use.
Read more: Outer Bicep Workouts
Getting Back to Full Strength
You can plan to wait at least six months to return to unrestricted weight lifting after distal biceps surgery. When you can lift heavy weights with no pain, there are many exercises you can do to fully strengthen your bicep tendon.
A great way to do this is by doing standing bicep curls, allowing you to hold a different weight in each arm if necessary, with the ultimate goal being to hold the maximum weight you can with each arm.
Start with 10 to 12 repetitions as you begin to rebuild the lean muscle mass in your upper arm.